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People, Skills & Talent

In Conversation with Cornerstone Design and Marketing

Set up by David Wadsworth in the spare bedroom of his parent’s home nearly 15 years ago, Cornerstone DM has blossomed into a highly successful full-service marketing agency. With clients ranging from international brands such as Kwells and Savlon, to local authorities and businesses, the last few years have seen an influx of new staff and a move to state-of-the-art premises.

David explains how working with the GC Growth Hub, and especially the People, Skills and Talent team, has helped the company grow and develop a people-focussed culture.

So why did you turn to the Growth Hub for support?


I started the business when I was 22, and as we slowly started to scale I realised I needed help building the company structure, and advice on staffing, job descriptions and dealing with personnel issues. So a couple of years ago, the time was right for me to become more involved in developing the business rather than its day-to-day running.

I signed up to the Hub’s Executive Development Programme and learnt so much about what makes people tick and what they want to get out of work. I worked closely with my business advisor Sean Bowman and together we carried out a people-focused Growth Assessment of the business. This really helped me to put people policies in place and now everyone has a five-year career development plan that fits around their aspirations, as well as the business's goals.

We’ve carried on with staff training through the Hub’s Skills for Growth programme, and they’re now supporting us as we train up a new senior management team. Our Account Manager, Darren Flannery, has helped us access the right Hub services at the right time.

What I discovered is that the Hub’s advisors are great at asking questions and getting to the bottom of a problem. They offer a guiding hand too and that’s really helped us to progress the business with more speed.

David Wadsworth, Founder

As you’ve grown, have you taken on more people?


There was eight of us when I started working with the Hub and we're now up to 21. The company’s Oldham roots are very important to me, so we have made a real effort to recruit locally, too. It might sound bit of a cliché, but there’s a family buzz about the business. After all, despite the bright lights of Manchester being so close, some of our team commute from south of the city to work in Oldham. That’s something that makes me very proud.

Marketing is a people business, it’s about listening to clients and coming up with solutions for them, and we’ve been able to offer full-time positions to some very capable and talented people, including account managers, web developers, digital marketers, print operatives and a copywriter.

It's all helping to put something back into the local economy.


What’s stood out for you in terms of the support you received from the Hub?


To be honest, I was a bit sceptical about it at first and wasn’t sure what value free support would really bring.

What I discovered is that the Hub’s advisors are great at asking questions and getting to the bottom of a problem. They offer a guiding hand too and that’s really helped us to progress the business with more speed. At the time you often don't realise how valuable these insights are going to be, but when you start to implement them and they become second nature, that's when you start to see the value

How did the move to new premises come about?


We knew that we needed somewhere bigger and our Account Manager helped us to secure a grant from Oldham Council that allowed us to improve the visual aesthetic of new premises we acquired in Lees. We’ve invested £250,000 altogether, creating a bespoke 6,000 sq ft headquarters which will be a great base for future expansion.

I believe the Hub also introduced you to a management concept that’s now at the heart of the business


Yes, I was chatting with Sean and he mentioned a business development idea called Objectives and Key Results (OKR). It’s a framework that helps companies align their goals and ensure everyone is working collaboratively. It really appealed to me, so I did some reading about the topic and over the last two-three years it has driven the development of the business.

 It's helped us improve services levels, client satisfaction rates and staff well-being, and has kept us moving quicker than a lot of our competitors, too


What about future growth plans?


Last year was incredibly hard but we still managed to grow by 10%, thanks partly to the fact that we were able to supply our existing customers with COVID-related materials, such as social distancing signage, protective screens and hand sanitisation stations. Our agency team also delivered ongoing marketing communications to our clients’ audiences, keeping them front of mind and engaged with brands which has delivered great value throughout lockdown and thereafter.

Over the next three years we have plans to grow all six key areas of the business – marketing, PR, digital, web, creative and print - and our forecasts show that, conservatively, we should be looking a 20% growth in turnover this year.

My next stop with the Hub will be investigating their specialist manufacturing support, as we look towards developing our own direct print and display making service. We’ve also started working with Stephen Griffith, a Skills Coach on the Skills for Growth programme, and we’ll be developing a bespoke productivity plan to map out our goals and milestones to work towards this year.

For more information and advise on how to grow your business, contact the People, Skills and Talent team

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